Release Date: Dec 11, 2015
Record label: N/A
T. S. Eliot may have decried April as the cruelest month, but in today’s warp-speed music industry, December may as well assume that title. Because as all of the year-end coverage wraps up—cozy in ugly Christmas sweaters and complete with bows on top—artists who release killer albums in this 12th month tend to get gypped.
The career of rapper, singer and accomplished flautist Melissa “Lizzo” Jefferson began in earnest two years ago: in the wake of her 2013 debut album, Lizzobangers – home to the irresistible single Batches and Cookies – she was feted by everyone from Sleater-Kinney (who took her on their reunion tour as support artist) to Prince to Clean Bandit to Bastille, all of whom got her to guest on their albums. Nevertheless, she seems a very 2015 kind of artist. The advance publicity for Lizzobangers’ follow-up makes more of her activism than her music.
Lizzo’s 2013 debut, ‘Lizzobangers’, was a fireball of a record, all incendiary wit and magpie production (thanks, at least in part, to Poliça’s Ryan Olson). And while she’s toned down the confrontation musically on this follow-up, opting for minimal, smooth beats made in collaboration with BJ Burton, lyrically it cuts even sharper. “Ain’t I a woman?” asks opener ‘Ain’t I’ in its closing seconds, nodding to abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s much-quoted 1851 freedom speech.
Minneapolis rapper Lizzo appears to view albums the same way most people view dates. If the first one’s all about making a fun, breezy initial impression, the second gives you a chance to open up a bit and show some emotional depth. Anyone familiar with Lizzo’s 2013 debut ‘Lizzobangers’ will know it was a Ronseal-esque statement of intent, all club-friendly sub-bass, fidgety hi-hats, and catchy, funny, clever lyrics.
Twin Cities artist Lizzo seems to have fans and collaborators in just about every pocket of the music world: Sleater-Kinney invited her to open for their reunion tour; fellow Minneapolitan Prince featured Lizzo and bandmate Sophia Eris on last year's PLECTRUMELECTRUM; Ryan Olson produced much of her debut LIZZOBANGERS. She's a true triple threat, equally searing as a rapper, soul singer, and personality and an unstoppable force on record, as amply proven with single "Batches and Cookies" (and its buttered-up hunkfest of a video) and with previous groups GRRRL PARTY and the Chalice. Big GRRRL Small World comes off as the work of an already minted star—her introduction to the small world, which she's already stepped over, laughing.
Lizzo’s hardly the first artist whose personality is so big you can hear her struggling to corral it onto one album, much less one song. Her fellow Minneapolis hometown hero Prince has kept up a career of that, and so has her forebear Nicki Minaj, a major influence on the 26-year-old’s outsized schizoid rhyme schemes and voices. Just check how the rapper pronounces “Anna Win-turr” to rhyme with Ben-Hur on 2013’s clarion Lizzobangers, which also contained lines like “I’m giving niggas headache like a mistake on your wedding cake” and jokes about Sixpence None the Richer.
Female rappers can often find themselves trapped between the need to talk tough and the commercial imperative to act sexy – a pincer movement that squeezes out fun and nuance. Lizzo’s first album, Lizzobangers, established the Detroit-born, Houston-raised woman as a playful new voice, one still backed by hard-hitting party beats. Straight outta Minneapolis – her adopted home town – rather than some established hip-hop hotbed, Lizzo had songs such as Batches & Cookies, ostensibly celebrating baked goods in a badass vein that recalled early Missy Elliott.